Man, Mistress and Object


She has a lover, she says, who is married and only available for sex when his work and family life permit, which is sometimes frequently and other times scarcely.

According to Kant in his Lectures on Ethics, sexual relations outside of a monogamous marriage leads to objectification of the participants, particularly the woman, as she is used for sexual gratification and afterwards discarded (163).

She describes this relationship as non-vertical, meaning they never meet except in a hotel room or the apartment he leases for sex, a horizontal proposition. She says she has never met him but once in public for coffee, once for a martini.

More specifically, Kant writes in the Lectures on Ethics that “sexual love makes of the loved person an Object of appetite; as soon as that appetite has been stilled, the person is cast aside as one casts away a lemon which has been sucked dry. … as soon as a person becomes an Object of appetite for another, all motives of moral relationship cease to function, because as an Object of appetite for another a person becomes a thing and can be treated and used as such by every one” (Kant Lectures on Ethics, 163).

She must be ready at any time to jump at his call, email or text, when opportunity arises, if she is to see him, and she wants to see him. She believes she loves him and has always loved him since she first met him, even though from the start, it was a utilitarian arrangement. They were both looking for sex outside sexless marriages.

Again, Kant notes, the inequality inherent in the mistress or concubine relationship–the woman completely surrenders her sex whereas the man with multiple concubines or wife does not–even though not for profit is also objectification as she is still used and possessed by the man.

She and her lover have little in common other than sex. In terms of social position, career and ideology, they are worlds apart. He is owner of a multi-billion dollar company and she is an elementary school teacher. His views are diametrically opposed to her own: Tea Party Republican Conservative Evangelical Christian vs. Progressive New Age mystic. His world is black and white, the world of no bullshit commerce and the market: You are either contributing to the economy or you are a drag on it. She is about compassion and communitarianism: society is only as strong as its weakest members who need help from those who have more.

Only in monogamous marriage is the surrendering of each partner equal, each one claiming possession and property the other, and thereby avoiding objectification, mere using. It is the power differential that creates this inequality that Kant deems the core of objectification (plato.stanford).

They have been meeting for nearly 8 years, just this way, little talk, just about the areas they can find common ground like parenting, beer and sports, but mostly sex. Their meetings are always secret, discreet, and sexual. They meet, undress in silence and engage in sex immediately. After the act, they rest in each other’s embrace and only then will he chat about his work and family, tell stories about funny exchanges with friends. She listens and laughs.

By surrendering herself, her sex, to a man who does not equally surrender himself fully to her, she allows herself to be used as a thing and thereby loses her humanity, which Kant equates with rational choice. She is a means to an end, merely.

In between sex sessions is the only foreplay they engage in. They fantasize. His fantasy is to dominate, possess, humiliate and control. He emails her about all the things he is going to do to her, including rape, sodomy and confinement. She encourages him and participates in this fantasy, providing her own desire to be owned, possessed, abused and humiliated.

Feminists Catherine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin claim that pornography perpetuates female objectification by catering to patriarchal socio-sexual objectification, making women the instrument of male pleasure or eroticism, sexual acts performed on women for men’s pleasure, a role constructed by society and perpetuated by pornography (plato.stanford).
MacKinnon writes: “… A sex object is defined on the basis of its looks, in terms of its usability for sexual pleasure, such that both the looking—the quality of gaze, including its points of view—and the definition according to use become eroticised as part of the sex itself. This is what the feminist concept of ‘sex object’ means” (MacKinnon 1987, 173)

She says she has fantasies that she imagines when she masturbates, fantasies about rape, domination, humiliation and control, ones she can never share. He uses a naked picture of her when he masturbates. It is faceless.

But other thinkers such as Ronald Dworkin and Martha Nussbaum attribute objectification to a host of images society perpetuates from soap operas to fashion, women as appearance only. Additionally, women are partly responsible for their objectification, for being objects of the gaze, as they conform to societal dictates for appearance, bodily appearance (plato.stanford).

She says she loves him, that he is a good man, tender and loving. He strives to please her and loves her, wants her to use his body for her pleasure. She gives her body willingly and he takes it greedily, hungrily. He desires her always, tells her she is beautiful and makes her feel beautiful and loved, even consumed, but in that consumption merged. They enter each other’s bodies and through their bodies, their hearts and minds.

Sandra Bartky in her book Feminism and Domination asserts women objectify themselves by internalizing the patriarchal gaze and living life through the eyes of the gazer, regardless of a specific gazer or societal gaze. She, woman, has internalized that gaze and lives under it herself. In addition, women are fragmented by being associated with their bodies rather than their minds and personalities. In Simone de Beauvoir’s words, they objectify themselves to obtain power over men, in seeing themselves as alluring objects of men and engaging in unilateral sexual acts of pleasuring men; this unilateral pleasuring gives women power. Women as ornaments, attention to body size and shape by dieting, surgery, apparel, mannerisms, taking up less space than men, these actions perpetuate and are the result of objectification.

He has said that he would love no other ever again, would go to his grave fantasizing about her, that she is all he could imagine wanting in his life and regrets not having met her sooner, when he was looking for a wife. He makes her feel desired.

Objectification, then, according to Langton, is a process in which the social world comes to be shaped by desire and belief. An objectifier thinks that her or his beliefs have come to fit the world, where in fact the world has come to fit her or his beliefs (plato.stanford).

And he is jealous and possessive. He claims he would own her, on a leash, not let her out of a cage if she were his, but also says he would treat her like the queen she is, if only she makes him feel loved: sex, food, tenderness and home. He wants to own her completely as his, his sperm repository, his lover, his wife, his mother of his children, his body to do with whatever he wishes with or without her consent. And he offers his body to her equally with the same rights and privileges. He believes it is biblically deigned it should be that way. She is not a believer but believes that his desire to possess her is what fuels her imagination and desire for him. She loves him and will always subjugate herself to him knowing he would treat her with respect and never harm her.

Alan Soble and Leslie Green believe objectification of people is not necessarily a bad thing. People in the pornography industry are willingly employed objects. People ARE objects. It is only wrong when people are treated merely as objects, as means and not as ends in themselves, to use the terms of Kant’s Moral Imperative. Martha Nussbaum agrees and expands objectification into categories one of which is instrumentality. Using each other sexually, as objects, can be enjoyable. Equality, respect and consent are the key factors to judge any act of objectification objectionable. It is contextual whether something is good or bad in terms of objectification. People may use each other as sexual tools, as mere bodies for a means to an end, if in other respects or overall, they treat each other with respect and act with mutual consent (plato.stanford).

Neither of them wish to leave their respective spouses but merely to spend time, more time, and sustain each other for the rest of their days.


Words That Matter (the word remains the thing)

Words That Matter (the words remain the thing)

You speak my language, my native tongue, English. To lay those English sentences down, it takes a subject, verb and object. That is the structure. That is how we make sense of things, and it is important that we do. Otherwise, we would be wallowing in the morass of uncoded conceptions and emotions. We would act almost always in anger. Words that form sentences matter, create ideas, images and bodies, so it is of upper most importance that the words are formed correctly–with precision and conciseness, following a decipherable and familiar pattern. You get that. And it starts with a subject, or often does, the focus of the missive.

We have tossed around many subjects, some drifting on to paper or keyboard, some merely dissipating into air, but so many subjects of sentences, so many sentences. We talk. We write. Subjects such as literacy and love, war and music, health and art, and all range of matters in between pass between us in breath and beamed icons and pictures. Ideas stimulate our minds and bodies, bodies that matter, words that form bodies that matter, not mere objects.

But getting back to subjects we form, the sentences that begin with the subject “I”, meaning “he” or “she”, “you” or “me”, seize attention. My head turns in the direction of the mouth from which the sentence is about to form. Your eyes widen. What does she want? What does he need? The pronoun produces endless possibility, endless speculation about the mere physical presence and perpetuation of life, another life before each of us, breathing, eating, shitting, sexing, as well as the psycho-emotional, loving, hurting, sensing, dying. What will the sentence bring?

The worst one begins, “I have something to tell you,” especially if it begins with the pronoun and then pauses, freeze framed in fear for the speaker and the listener alike. Like running into a loose dog in the park that you hadn’t seen but all of the sudden spy just at the periphery of your previously straight sight on your path, on the way to your destination, you stop, suspended in time for seconds to turn up those senses you rarely perceive, the acute ones ratcheted up to superhuman strength in order to listen to danger in your finger tips or smell fear with your eyes. Will he strike or let me pass? The seconds of ice sculpted figures in time, you on the path and the narrowed eyes of the supposed beast behind the tree, enlarge space and moment, dive into the essence of living, of human. It means life in so far as it is a suspension of time elapsing at the end of which something will be known, the stretch between the idea of something and the knowing of it. But the knowing does not ease the dread. No one wants to die, be wounded, senseless as that is. Not all sentences that begin with foreboding turn out to be perilous.

The sentences that begin with subjects that are merely nouns are the most entertaining. There is no attachment, or at least there doesn’t have to be. To start a sentence with “The war…” is one that divides, gets listeners prepared to be het up. No matter what, there is going to be engagement, disengagement, injury, surrender, and the like, but no one really needs to get hurt, no one with presence of mind to understand that the killing and dying and injustice are out there in space, even if it is occurring in the neighborhood. I am not saying there is no fear. There is. But the words formed, the mere act of forming those words, means the speaker or writer is with an audience and the war is an idea. Both or all are alive. The rest is in forming the right sentences that contain the most effective verbs to produce the right action. You see? Keep pronouns out of the sentence, and the subject is not real, merely notion, possibility or speculation; sometimes it is a call to action.

Unlike Chinese, English is a verb-oriented language, emphasizing states of action as opposed to a noun-oriented language, which water colors states of being across the silken screen of sentience in vertical word pictures. The verbs in English are thought to be the meat of the English sentence, but I disagree. Verbs are action, doing, even when there is very little movement going on, like being, feeling, postulating and sensing. But I believe the sentence’s weight, what matters, is the body of the sentence, the subject, the pronoun or noun, whether proper, common or gerund. Some would say the body is the predicate, which contains the verb, and the head, the direction or focus, is the subject. I disagree. The sentence could begin and end with “I”, “you”, he”, “she” or “it”. To me, those matter. They do. They are. You are not what you do. You matter there as mass of tendons, sinews and neurons; it matters as brick, mortar and steel. It does.

And sentences with objects, those are tricky. What we do with objects–do to object–and who we objectify is problematic. An object can turn a sentence inside out, turn back on itself, whether passively or actively. “I don’t like you” is a sentence with an object, an object that is distanced from the subject by legions and the division is clear, one of thick emotional boundary. Objects are others, polarizing, because objects that are one with us are only thought of as self; however, ordinary objects, the way we think of them every day, every moment of the day, and the way we think of ourselves is as the self–one thing–separate and apart from others, other people and things, other objects. We objectify ourselves and others, as if they were the earth and the sky, the lake and the dock, the murderer and the victim, the heart and the mind–opposites, contingent, contiguous, adjacent–but sometimes a part, never object and subject as one.

The sentence “I don’t like you” does not make sense without the emoter, without the I. Though we sometimes speak like that, cowering before our own emotion…don’t like you. Eliminating the pronoun forces us to silently hear the pronoun that is not uttered, and the speaker or writer elides it perhaps because the emotion is distasteful to the “I” or the “I” is uncomfortable with the anticipated reaction or feelings of the objectified target of the missile. He feels guilt or projects rejection. The missing pronoun lets him off the hook. There is no “I” who dislikes, just the disliking.

But creating objects shows a failure of understanding. There are no objects. Objects should not be standard for sentences. I like that sentences can be formed without objects: I am. He lives. You sleep. Too many sentences need objects; too many people need canvases on which to spray, drip, brush or project their emotions, ideas, and secretions. Imagine a world without objects, only subjects. Where would our minds go?

I think you know the answer. Or if you don’t, you understand the question. We speak the same language, even though we use the same words only to come up with different interpretations, conclusions and impressions. We misunderstand each other often, you creating me with words, forming my body, my needs, my goals, while I do the same for you. I paint you as the man who needs all three of me, and you draw the figure of curvaceous kitten who drinks the milk of many. We are both wrong, abuse language, and are poor artists, poor proofreaders, though fine editors. I am not embarrassed to revise and neither are you, brave enough not to forego failure. So, I misread, misspeak, misstep. We forgive. Sentences there are a plenty to spew, erase, craft and polish. They are our trade and livelihood.

The question of subject and object preoccupies me, though. The manic attempt to merge, to merge and merge and merge, is futile effort like banging your head on concretions when you should be hammocking in abstractions. You say it is the moment, the glimpse of nirvana, but you have reversed it all, turned it inside out and now the verb is all I can think of. To merge is–and you know this–an acknowledgment that we are not one. Can you be matter, stand there before me, naked or clothed, smiling or frowning, eyes rolled back in ecstasy or fury, and not be my Frankenstein? We meet in a pun, the wink of words. Our tongues touch, licking tips of twists of irony or singeing sarcasm. I create your desire, your will to live. I write you. You speak me. Like genies from the bottle we appear limitless, magical and wish-come-true filled, what we have been waiting for. But fantasy is another story. Only we are the stories that we tell, the matter, you writing yours, me mine in poems, conversations and fiction flashes.

It starts with the sentence–subject and verb. Contractions and commas, flow of phrases and long, listing strands of wispy parts of speech dotting the shoreline, shells in the sand, stars in the sky, they precede, intercede and succeed. The space between each shell, each star, each word, is the mystery, the place without object, the place of matter and no matter, no idea of what it could be, what matters. A place no word can contain, no thought can hold is the reason for the unreality of objects. The empty linguistic space is not nirvana nor is it non-space. There are no words. You know that. We speak the same language. Let’s go there.